IF NOT for the one team wearing green and the other black, South Africa and New Zealand would not be able to be separated considering the current make-up of both their squads ahead of the first Twenty20 international here at the Westpac Stadium.
It’s been just on 12 months since these two proud sporting nations met. It was, of course, that World Cup quarter-final in Dhaka. Although there are still players on both sides that were involved on that fateful day, there are also plenty of “fresh faces” as each side looks to revitalise their squad and plan for the World Twenty20 in Sri Lanka later this year.
Among these new additions are hard-hitting openers on both fronts with South Africa’s Richard Levi and the Kiwi Rob Nicol expected to provide the bulk of entertainment tomorrow evening.
Left-arm seamers also share the new ball, with Lonwabo Tsotsobe already making a big impact in the tour opener with a hat-trick. Michael Bates has some catching up to do on the South African and could even sit out tomorrow.
Seasoned leaders have also been replaced with energetic young captains. AB de Villiers now steers the Proteas limited-overs ships instead of Graeme Smith, and Ross Taylor has taken over from Daniel Vettori for the Black Caps. Taylor is absent for the Twenty20 leg of South Africa’s tour through injury, leaving Brendon McCullum with the leadership reigns, further emphasising the similarity of the two units as both De Villiers and McCullum keep wicket, bat in their respective top-orders and are the premier decision-makers.
The duo, who both admitted at the pre-match press conference that they are “good mates”, are also similar in the manner they approach the game. There is nothing humdrum about either De Villiers or McCullum, with both inclined to attack before thinking of defence. This is the ideal recipe for a hugely entertaining clash, especially considering the Twenty20 format.
“I know AB pretty well. He is a very positive captain. It’s the way he plays and he will ask of lot of his team. He has really done well in the last couple of years, and we will try and negate that and hopefully keep his contribution to a minimal effect,” McCullum said of De Villiers.
The Proteas skipper was equally glowing when assessing his Kiwi counterpart.
“We’ve played a lot against each other over the years, enjoyed a few good nights out in the IPL and I have always rated him as a leader. We will definitely look to keep him quiet because he has the ability to score very quickly when he gets going,” De Villiers said.
There certainly seems to be a greater mutual respect between the respective captains than when South Africa last toured here in 2004. It’s been well documented that Black Caps skipper Stephen Fleming launched a tactical verbal assault on Smith on that tour, which had a debilitating effect on the skipper and filtered through to the rest of the team as the Proteas slumped to a 5-1 ODI series defeat.
But McCullum was quick to point out that the 2012 Black Caps under his leadership would not employ a similar strategy, in line with De Villiers and Proteas coach Gary Kirsten’s sentiments earlier in the week that the scoreboard counts more than talk. – Cape Times